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February 21, 2014

Film Room: 2014 DL/LB

Matt Hamilton is a former college football student assistant and NFL scouting intern for the Detroit Lions. He currently researches and writes for NFL Playbook on the NFL Network. Hamilton has taken a look at available video on Missouri's 2014 recruiting class and offers up his evaluations in this series. The series will run in five parts, one each day this week.

All evaluations were based off any available video of each prospect. Scouts usually need at least three full game tapes of a player to get a full evaluation of his skill set, strengths, weaknesses, and tendencies. More so, scouts prefer the tapes not to be from consecutive games. Highlight tapes only show off a few physical traits and some tendencies as far as technique is concerned. It's important to note that these are being done off of highlight tapes, so it is not a full representation of what the player can/can't do, but it does give us a pretty good idea.

Having said that, here is what Hamilton observed from watching the highlight tape:

Defensive Line/Linebackers

These two position groupings may have been hit the hardest due to graduation/the draft. The Tigers lost 4 defensive starters, including the SEC defensive player of the year Michael Sam. Mizzou leaves its d-line in good hands, however, as they return Markus Golden and Shane Ray, who played huge roles last year. They do need to find another few pass rushers to add to the rotation and this class may help provide some answers. As for the linebackers, Missouri loses Andrew Wilson and Donovan Bonner. Kentrell Brothers and Darvin Ruise are the only returning players with any sort of experience. In my opinion, this LB corps is the thinnest and most unproven group on the roster heading into the 2014 offseason program. There will be a chance for these incoming freshmen to prove themselves and hopefully a few of the young, promising, LBs Mizzou returns break through in spring ball as well. Let's take a look to see who could emerge to help bolster these two position groups: :

5-foot-11, 196-pound linebacker Roderick Winters, Arlington, TX (Bowie) - Winters is an undersized but athletic LB, with above average instincts. He has good change of direction, and excellent hit power. Accelerates through contact. Good violence in his hands to disengage blockers and make plays. Relentless in pursuit. Solid tackler, will break down and wrap up in the open field as well as lay the big hit. Didn't see any clips of him in coverage, can't comment on his hips and ability to turn and run, but he is a talented blitzer who accelerates through the line. Will be an asset in the run game if he can add weight. My only concern is how his added weight will impact his speed and athleticism at the next level. If he can add good weight without sacrificing mobility, he should be able to contribute and possibly start as he continues to develop. A likely candidate for a redshirt as he needs further physical development.

Watch video highlights of Roderick Winters in action by clicking here.

6-foot-2, 203-pound linebacker Brandon Lee, Indianapolis, IN (Lawrence Central) - Lee is a sam backer that is at his best playing in the box. Has good size and is physical at the point of attack. Can take on and shed blockers, hold the edge and is a sure tackler. Can collapse the edge in the run game. Plays a little high at times. Good change of direction. Lacks instincts in zone coverage. When he is blitzing or playing man, he shows good playing speed, but when he's in zone or asked to read and react, he is timid at times. Feel like he is unsure at times and it prevents him from playing as fast as he is capable, however, he showed a marked improvement with this between his junior and senior years. Seems as if he is still figuring out the mental aspects of them game and the strides he made in just a year are very encouraging. Good motor, plays through the whistle. Will lay some big hits. Overall, Lee is best served in running situations, but is limited in coverage right now. If he can master the mental part of the game and play consistently as fast as I think he can, he can be a force at the sam LB position. He needs some time and development before we see his best football, but he can contribute on special teams early. Did some long snapping in high school as well.

Watch video highlights of Brandon Lee in action by clicking here.

6-foot-4, 225-pound defensive end Walter Brady, Florence, AL (Florence) - Mizzou has found another overlooked, long, athletic, defensive end brimming with potential in Walter Brady. He weighs just 225, but has great natural strength and superb athleticism. Natural bender. Can take on double teams, shed blockers, and make plays with his long arms. Is a little raw in his technique but has pretty good instincts. Needs to improve his leg strength, hand placement, and upper body strength as well. Brady may need some time before he hits the field to add weight and refine his technique, but when he does, he could be another in the long line of Missouri finds at defensive end.

Watch video highlights of Walter Brady in action by clicking here.

6-foot-3, 240-pound defensive end Rocel McWilliams, Pensacola, FL (West Florida Tech) - McWilliams is an explosive pass rusher. He will need to add some bulk, but his quickness will be his greatest asset. Needs to work on hand placement when taking on blockers, often gets caught with his hands outside. Quick off the line, will shoot gaps. Struggles at times to shed blocks. Decent length and frame to add weight without losing much quickness. Could be a candidate to play early if needed as he is naturally strong and already at a decent weight, but would benefit most by redshirting and continuing to improve his strength and technique. Will be a solid player in the rotation for years to come.

Watch video highlights of Rocel McWilliams in action by clicking here.

6-foot-4, 230-pound defensive end Spencer Williams, Jacksonville, FL (First Coast) - And…Mizzou found another one in the same class. Williams looks and plays bigger than his listed 240 and looks like he could be ready to play sooner than later. Williams is long, athletic and explosive. He is a natural bender with natural strength. Has excellent leg strength. He can take on double teams and hold them up. Has good hand placement when taking on blockers but needs to be more aggressive and strike them, then shed instead of trying to hold and throw them off. If he shocks, he'll be able to shed bigger, stronger, offensive lineman. Williams can contribute right away if needed and looks to be another elite defensive end in the making.

Watch video highlights of Spencer Williams in action by clicking here.

CLOSING THOUGHTS ON THE CLASS: Bottom line: this class, like many of Mizzou's classes, is supremely underrated. The thing I've started to realize, doing this for a few years, is that the people that rate these recruits seem to put a premium on size, technique, and the quality of play that players are putting on tape right now. Mizzou seems to put a premium on players with superb athleticism that they can coach and strengthen, and while it may take a little longer than some of the 4 and 5 star recruits, their ceilings, in some cases are higher. We've seen this time and again at Mizzou, with everyone from Aldon Smith, to William Moore, to Kony Ealy on down the line. This class is brimming with potential and while we may not see the dividends for a few years, they will come. Finally, my top 5 prospects in this class in terms of their ceilings are: Lawrence Lee, Spencer Williams, Tavon Ross, Paul Adams, and Walter Brady (in no particular order). They're not the only ones that could become stars out of this class, but these were the 5 I saw with the most athleticism and potential to become truly great. Greg Taylor, Nate Brown, and Andy Bauer are all in that discussion as well, and are already closer to finished products than the others, but if I were forced to pick off of sheer potential, it would have to be the five I previously named.

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